When I started going to comic con-type events, there were only a handful. Most people know the big one – San Diego Comic Con. And if you are in the Southeast, DragonCon is the big destination. Over the last 10 years, more and more comic cons have popped up. So much that you can’t go a weekend now without several events happening, big and small. And the word “cosplay” is no longer an obscure reference, but I think the general public still might not be sure exactly what it is cosplayers and other attendees actually do at these events.
By the way, I also wrote a kids book so they know what to expect when they attend their first comic con!
What to Expect at a Comic Con
Cosplayers of all types
Cosplayers are the people that attend conventions dressed as their favorite characters. Yes, it’s OK to ask them for photos. No, it’s not OK to grope them. Cosplayers spend a lot of time putting together their outfits and many love to get photos taken. Just try give them some space if they are trying to eat or wait in the bathroom line. Sometimes you don’t want your picture taken!
These are the people that show up to see their favorite celebrities and buy collectibles. Comic cons are all about the fans!
The bigger conventions get the bigger celebrities. SDCC gets the biggest of them all! But almost every convention boasts some sort of celeb guests, from movie stars to voice actors, that will sign photos or take photos with people.
These are well-known cosplayers that usually wear more elaborate costumes and sign posters/prints of themselves in costume. This is actually what I used to do a lot!
There are panels on every topic! A panel is like a mini presentation or Q&A with a person or small group of people. There are fan panels on TV shows, movies and comics, cosplay and costuming topics, celebrity panels and more. Every convention will have a panel schedule so be sure to look through that and plan accordingly. Most panels last about an hour.
Many conventions have workshops where you get to make things, like painting miniatures or working with Worbla. (a thermoplastic molding material popular with cosplayers)
Most conventions have a gaming room where you can play the latest games on the latest consoles.
There is also usually a tabletop gaming area for fans who still like games like Dungeons & Dragons
A lot conventions do sell alcohol and many people come to dress up, drink and hang with friends. Some conventions (like DragonCon) have more of a party atmosphere than others. Most conventions overall are still very family-friendly.
Some conventions have massive vendor halls with every kind of geek-related paraphernalia you can find, but even small cons will have a vendor area. Comics, toys, vintage items, clothing, costumes, corsets, swords, jewelry…you name it, you can find it in the vendor hall.
Usually located near the vendors, Artist’s Alley is where you can find original art pieces of your favorite characters and geek related artwork.
At a big con like SDCC they have actual rides and interactive experiences, but even smaller cons have activities like foam sword fighting, LARPing or blow-up suit sumo wrestling.
Every convention has a costume contest, some even have several with different themes.
Most cons have an evening program as well, featuring more adult options like after-parties or burlesque shows.
There’s even more than what’s on this list (like maid cafes and speed dating) but this will give you a good idea of many of the things you will see and experience at any type of fan/geek based convention. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask!